From Derb's Email Bag: Math, Talking About The War, And Kazakhstan, Etc.
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Earlier: How Cossacks Culturally Appropriated Kazakhs

Just a few. 

Brainteaser solution. The Math Corner in my February Diary included a brainteaser. There's a worked solution  here

Talking about the war.  The Russia-Ukraine war has of course brought in a lot of email. By way of improving my own understanding of the background to what's happening, I'm particularly grateful to two friends who each sent in a YouTube video. Both videos are rather long, but both are well worth your time.

(1) Vladimir Pozner speaking to the Yale University Program on Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in September 2018. Yes, that's 3½ years ago, but this has stood up very well. Pozner is sober and judicious, with a minimum of speculation.

The clip is 1:53:03 long. The first six minutes are just third parties introducing Pozner. From there to the 40:30 mark it's Pozner talking from the lectern. The remaining hour and twelve minutes is audience Q&A, with a high proportion of questions coming from Russian or Ukrainian students.

Pozner addresses the Ukraine issue from 1:09:40 on.  Shortly before that—1:02:42 to 1:09:25—he has interesting things to say about censorship. 

(2) George Szamuely in a one-on-one with David Freiheit at the VivaFrei vlog, February 24th—right at the start of the current fighting. This clip is 1:37:55 long, of which the first four minutes is introductory.

Szamuely—whose father Tibor Szamuely I recall from when I began reading the London Spectator back in my college days—is less restrained than Pozner, but he knows the territory very well and talks fluently about the Budapest Memorandum, the Magnitsky Act, the Minsk Agreements,…all that has led up to where we are now.

He's particularly good on the deep background: the nationalities policies of Lenin and Stalin. I knew about Lenin's ideas there, but I'd forgotten that Stalin began his government career as People's Commissar for Nationalities.

"The working men have no country," declared Marx and Engels in Chapter II of the Communist Manifesto (often rendered later as "the proletariat has no fatherland"). I wonder if any single statement of communist doctrine generated as much misery as that one.

David Freiheit is a very good interviewer with the knack of raising issues just as you're wanting them raised: the Holodomor, for example, at 21:50. And having been a postulant intellectual back when Existentialism was all the rage, I appreciated the Kierkegaard quote at 1:36:21.    

Kazakhstan.  In the February 25th Radio Derb I wondered why Alexander Solzhenitsyn had included Kazakhstan with Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus as the lands to be "gathered up" into a unitary state.

I still don't know the answer, but a helpful listener sent this link to NBC News, February 25th:

Kazakhstan, one of Russia's closest allies and a southern neighbor, is denying a request for its troops to join the offensive in Ukraine, officials said Friday 

I have no idea what the significance of that is; but I was surprised, looking the place up, at how BIG Kazakhstan is: the tenth biggest country in the world by area, 83 percent the size of India. Kazakhstan generates remarkably little news for such a big place.

Renaming Britain's royal dynasty.  After I mentioned (at 26:07 here) Britain's King George the Fifth having changed the name of his dynasty from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in World War One, a listener commented:

My favorite line about the "foreignness" of the British Royal Family from that period was George V's response when H.G. Wells bemoaned "our alien and uninspiring Court." The King, who knew full well his limits, barked in response, "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm an alien!" But he did have to change the name.


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